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Tokyo Court Says Japan’s Lack of Legal Protection for Same-Sex Marriage Is Unconstitutional


Plaintiffs and supporters walk to the Tokyo district court in Tokyo, Japan, on Nov. 30, 2022, the same day that Japan's lack of law to protect the right of same-sex couples to marry and become families was ruled unconstitutional by the Tokyo District Court.

A Tokyo District Court found on Wednesday that Japan’s lack of legal protection for same-sex marriages violated the constitution but said the government’s lack of legislative action on the matter was not illegal.

Japan is currently the only G-7 nation that continues to ban same-sex marriage and does not allow same-sex couples to marry, inherit assets and denies parental rights.

The Tokyo court threw out demands of $7,175 (1 million yen) in compensation for each of the eight plaintiffs in the case who asserted the law was discriminatory.

Article 24 in the Japanese constitution explicitly states, “marriage shall be based only on the consent of both sexes” and recognizes equal rights between a husband and wife.

In the ruling, the Tokyo court said while the ban itself was constitutional, the lack of legal protection for same-sex couples infringes on their rights and is unconstitutional.

According to Reuters, the court found the absence of legal protection for same-sex couples “is in state of violation” of the second paragraph of Article 24.

While the ruling still dismissed the plaintiffs’ demand of compensation, the response of the court is seen as a major step for LGBTQ+ rights in Japan, where gender roles and family values are deeply intertwined in society.

“I was glad that the ruling acknowledged we have a right to be families,” plaintiff Chizuka Oe said at a news conference. “This is just the beginning.”

Plaintiffs and supporters hold a banner saying "Advancement to marriage equality" outside the Tokyo district court in Tokyo, Nov. 30, 2022. Japan's lack of law to protect the right of same-sex couples to marry and become families was ruled unconstitutional by the Tokyo District Court on Nov. 30, 2022.
Plaintiffs and supporters hold a banner saying "Advancement to marriage equality" outside the Tokyo district court in Tokyo, Nov. 30, 2022. Japan's lack of law to protect the right of same-sex couples to marry and become families was ruled unconstitutional by the Tokyo District Court on Nov. 30, 2022.

This ruling was the third of five similar lawsuits filed around the country with divisive responses from different courts.

The Sapporo District Court found the banning of same-sex marriage was unconstitutional in March 2021, while the Osaka district court ruled banning same-sex marriage was constitutional.

Local municipalities, including Tokyo prefecture, have attempted to assist same-sex couples through the Partnership Oath System. There is still a lack of legal protection, however, for inheritance and medical issues.

Japanese society is starting to think more open-mindedly about same-sex marriage according to a public opinion poll conducted by Mainichi Shinbun and Saitama University Social Research Center. The poll found that 71% of 18–29-year-old Japanese people say that same-sex marriage should be recognized. This figure drops to about 25% for those above the age of 70.

The Associated Press and Reuters provided some information for this report.

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